Despite not winning a seat in the House of Commons, the far-right People’s Party of Canada tripled its popular vote share in the recent federal election. In several ridings in rural Alberta, the party finished second behind Conservative incumbents.
We took a deep-dive into what the PPC’s growth means for Canada’s political landscape, and what progressive political activists say needs to be done to counter the PPC’s ascent. Read our full story here.
Evan Balgord, executive director of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network, told The Maple that in the 2019 federal election, many people sympathetic to the PPC’s far-right messaging decided to vote strategically for the Conservatives.
- “This time around the COVID conspiracy movement and the far-right are not happy with Erin O'Toole,” said Balgord. “So this time around, many more of them decided they weren't going to vote strategically, and they were going to vote for the PPC; that's where they got their bump from.”
Balgord said the PPC’s broader membership has its roots in a larger trajectory of far-right movements in Canada, with the current iteration of those movements beginning around 2016.
- “(The current Canadian far-right movement) started as an anti-Muslim movement; the first thing they took to the streets to demonstrate against was Motion 103, which was that non-binding motion to condemn Islamophobia,” said Balgord.
Fast forward to 2020, and the pandemic provided a powerful recruiting tool for the far-right, Balgord explained.
- “COVID was like manna from heaven for them,” said Balgord. “All these people on the far right, they're conspiratorial to begin with. They believe in conspiracies about (U.S. Democratic Party financier) George Soros; they believe in conspiracies about white replacement.”
It is against that political backdrop that the PPC has grown over the past year, Balgord said.
Barbara Perry, director of the Centre on Hate, Bias and Extremism at Ontario Tech University, agrees the PPC has capitalized on negative responses to public health measures during the pandemic.
- Perry told The Maple that the party’s 2021 election platform also focuses on issues such as “Canadian identity,” “immigration” and “refugees,” echoing far-right talking points.
- “There's still that virulent anti-immigrant and anti-refugee narrative, and in particular, immigrants and refugees who are identified as Muslim,” said Perry. “The language they use — the ‘cult of diversity,’ the ‘flow’ of refugees, that sort of language — that's classic far-right language, white nationalist language.”
How should people opposed to the PPC’s far-right messaging respond? Desiree Bissonnette, the NDP’s 2021 candidate for the Alberta riding of Lakeland, told The Maple:
- “I think that the PPC kind of shows the left how crappy we are at our jobs. (The PPC) are actually putting in the work that I think that the left should be putting in, but we spend a lot of our time infighting and trying to play politics in a similar way to small-c conservative parties and neoliberal parties ... like we're trying to fit into that.”
Bissonnette predicts the PPC will continue to grow unless those on the political left start taking the far-right party more seriously, listening to grassroots activists and providing resources in regions where the PPC is ascendent.
- “I long for the day that politics is about hope, instead about being afraid for the other guy to win,” she added. “It's about the hope for a better future.”
Read our full report here.